Shale Bust Not Busting as Fast as U.S. Government Thought

  • Total 184,000 barrels/day added to EIA's February estimate
  • Estimate for Gas output from Marcellus raised 4.2 percent

Shale patches in the U.S. are pumping out more oil and gas than the government previously thought.

A total 184,000 barrels a day of shale oil output were added to the Energy Information Administration’s estimate for February in its monthly Drilling Productivity Report released Monday. The agency also raised its estimate for natural gas production from the Marcellus region by 4.2 percent.

While American drillers have idled more than two-thirds of their oil and gas rigs since October 2014, production has been resilient thanks to techniques that allow them to pump more from each well, and a much-anticipated decline in stockpiles is yet to be seen. U.S. crude inventories climbed above 500 million barrels to the highest level since 1930 in the week ended Jan. 29, according to EIA data.

The EIA last week said it was revising the models it uses to estimate output in the report. Last month, the EIA said it expected the seven major shale formations in the U.S. to produce 4.83 million barrels of oil a day in February. Monday’s report raised that estimate to 5.02 million. The agency last month expected the Marcellus to pump out 15.2 billion cubic feet of natural gas this month. That was revised to 15.9 billion Monday.

Even with the revisions, the agency sees oil output from shale on a long downward trajectory as companies cut spending and drill fewer wells. In March, the EIA expects oil output to decline 92,000 barrels a day to 4.9 million, which would be the lowest level since August 2014.

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